UNP has fielded people’s candidates - Prof. Ashu Marasinghe | Sunday Observer

UNP has fielded people’s candidates - Prof. Ashu Marasinghe

Former UNP MP, Prof.Ashu Marasinghe in an interview with the Sunday Observer, denied his party had a deal with the Government, saying that the people have begun to realise that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) fulfilled a ‘contract’ by the Government in splitting the UNP.

Commenting on rumours that former UNP heavyweight Mangala Samaraweera might return to the UNP he said that the UNP doors are open to anyone who regrets their bad decisions.

The full interview:

Q: What will be your election campaign plan for the 2020 election and how are you gearing up for the election?

A. We have fielded candidates for all the districts. There are 291 candidates, of which 262 are professionals from the university, education, health, economic and engineering sectors. We have responded to the call of the voters to clean up the Parliament. Our candidates comprise young professionals with creative minds.

I remember the Viyath Maga promised to field 100 fresh faces for the General Election, I don’t think they have nominated at least half of that number. But we have fielded the candidates the people wished for. That will be our asset. We are now preparing our campaign plan.

I am in the Campaign Committee chaired by former Minister Sagala Ratnayake.

The UNP slogan for the 2020 General Election will be launched next week.

Q: There is a rumour that former Minister Mangala Samaraweera who announced his withdrawal from the 2020 Parliamentary Election race is going to return to the UNP ?

A. Frankly, I still have no clue as to what his plans are. Anyone who aligns with the UNP policies can join the party at anytime, there are no restrictions. If you regret your past decisions and want to correct yourself, the door is open for anyone. But those who return must work to protect the party.

Q: Many former UNP parliamentarians who are party stalwarts are now with the SJB, just a handful of former MPs are with the UNP. Have you any strategy to overcome this obvious hurdle?

A. I must go to the original point I made. People rejected the old Parliament, they were angry with their behaviour in Parliament and their irresponsible actions. That was applicable to the UNP members of Parliament as well but all those rejected politicians are now hanging on to the SJB.

Religious extremists, anti Buddhist elements and those who have tainted their names in other ways, all have crossed over and are no more with the UNP.

Q: One of the major accusations against the present UNP leadership is that, they are insensitive to the grievances of the common masses and the present leader cannot relate to their aspirations ?

A. That claim was cooked up by certain members because the Leader did not give in to their selfish demands. But the original UNPers are still with us. UNP is a brand, our life …….jeewana dharshanaya. Anyone can leave the party but no one can distance himself from this philosophy.

It is a party that has transformed the country – it can proudly boast of introducing the open market policy, mega projects that actually serve the people, for example, the Mahaweli project, the Mahapola scheme in Universities and massive housing schemes. Our party has made giant strides in the power generation sector as well.

For other governments, development projects were a cover to illegally amass public funds. The Hambantota projects are such white elephants.

Q: The SJB openly criticised the UNP of having a secret deal with the Government and betraying UNP supporters. They are inviting the anti-government forces across divides to vote for them.

A. The UNP Leader has already made a very clear statement that we will not stand with the Government. But the SJB leader himself said they are ready to work with the government.

Isn’t it clear where the deal is?

The media at one point went to town accusing Sajith Premadasa of having a deal with the Government to cover up his corruption at the Central Cultural Fund. He is yet to respond, let alone deny these claims. He must make his position clear to the voters without taking them for a ride.

The Government conspired to split the party and the SJB fulfilled this call. He is answerable to the UNP supporters. It was the Government which wanted to split the party. The Working Committee was very clear that it wanted to go for a new alliance not a new party. But ultimately they formed a new party. It was made clear when a case was filed seeking for the Election Commission to reject SJB nominations, the court overruled the application. The verdict established that the SJB is in fact a new political party and not an alliance including the UNP.

Q: At present, minority party leaders Palani Digambaram, Rishad Bathiudeen and Rauff Hakeem who enjoy a somewhat of a monopoly over the minority vote-base, are with the SJB. What’s your plan to garner the estate sector votes and the Muslim votes, which constitute a major chunk of the UNP vote base ?

A. Our party has purged extremists and racists. And the bad eggs have left us. Therefore, we don’t need to work on ethnic lines. We will create an environment for people to enjoy equal rights.

Q: It’s a fact that the UNP which was the only party that could single handedly win a majority in Parliament, is now in tatters. Instead of attacking your common enemy, you are attacking each other. How could you win the election in the present circumstances?

A. Our common enemy would be the SLPP. We do have our fight with the Government. People will realise what is happening as we move on. In fact, they have begun to realise now. Our fight is to capture power in Parliament and form a UNP government to serve the people, unlike others who want to capture Sirikotha or another building.

There are only two parties fighting for power to rule the country – the UNP and the SLPP. We have a strategy for that and it remains a secret for now but will be revealed at the right time.

Q: If you lose the election, how would you secure your place as the main opposition.Any discussions to that end?

A. No, we have not discussed that prospect yet.

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